Jason Ropell is out as the head of Amazon Studio’s film division, Variety has confirmed.
Ted Hope and Matt Newman will serve as interim leaders of the unit, but neither man is expected to take on the job full time, according to an insider. Ropell has been with Amazon for six years, two and a half of which have been spent in the movie end of the business. He will serve as a consultant for the company. Hope is currently head of film production and Newman is in charge of international film strategy.
Amazon will conduct a search for Ropell’s replacement. His ouster comes as newly minted Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke is shaking things up. Although nothing has been set in stone, Salke is moving the company in a different direction and is believed to be looking to back projects on both the film and television front that are more mainstream and less esoteric. Salke replaced Roy Price in March. Price, who favored prestige fare from the likes of Woody Allen, was forced to resign last October after being accused of sexual harassment.
Since delving into the film business in 2015 with the release of Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq,” Amazon has had a mixed record. It won Oscars for “Manchester by the Sea” and scored at the box office with “The Big Sick,” but the company has also released several films, such as “Landline” and “Wonder Wheel,” that failed to make much of an impression with audiences or critics. It has also attracted a reputation for over-spending on art house films at festivals and giving auteurs with limited commercial appeal generous budgets to back passion projects with limited appeal. However, Amazon has also stressed that it has other ways to make money beyond ticket sales. It claims its movies are all about adding value to its Prime offering, a more expensive shipping option that also gives subscribers access to entertainment content. Releasing movies theatrically helps publicize the service.
Upcoming Amazon releases include Luca Guadagnino’s “Suspiria,” Mike Leigh’s “Peterloo,” and Felix Van Groeningen’s “Beautiful Boy.”
Amazon declined to comment on the staffing changes. Screen International first reported Ropell’s exit.